I finished reading George Kerr’s “Formosa Betrayed” a few days ago. It took me about two months to finish it because I had to pause many times to process all the complex feelings of hurt and shame. How little had I known about the island Formosa that had born and raised me!
On this island, most people about my age grew up learning political propaganda as if it were real history. So convinced were we that even when “Formosa Betrayed” was no longer banned by the government, very few were interested in reading it. We are so used to thinking that “the government is always right,” just as we believe that “parents are always right.” Many shut their ears off or feel offended upon hearing criticism of the government. They might even say “It is not easy to run a government”, getting slightly cross.
I would accept the above statement only if the government worked truly for the well-being of the people and made decisions based on democratic values. However, it was clear that KMT, ever since it fled the Communist China and built an exile government in Taiwan in 1949, has never been at the side with the people.
Due to the prevailing fear of a Communist takeover in the international society at that time, KMT’s illegal occupation over Taiwan (Formosa) was tolerated, if not encouraged. The tragic outcome was that Taiwan became the “Free China”, and the Formosans have lived a life of confused identity till today.
In late 1980’s, Taiwan went through a series of liberalization, pressed by the powerful demand for political reform from the society and the international community. The notorious martial law which had lasted for 38 years was lifted. By 1996, Taiwanese people had successfully eliminated the parliamentary seats that represented the population in China, and voted directly for the first time their own president. However, the process of democratization was not complete because KMT, the second richest political party in the world, was simply too big to find any rivaling political party in Taiwan. Even when KMT, due to the schism within the party, reluctantly became the opposition party during 2000~2008, it still had its claws tightly on the judicial system, the legislation, and the media. It also enjoyed the unfathomed loyalty of most military leaders in the national force.
Now that KMT is back to holding the reins, and President Ma Ying-jiou in his second term, nothing seems to be able to stop this party machine any more. Milo Thornberry, an American missionary who personally experienced KMT’s atrocious ruling during Taiwan’s White Terror, raised the following question in his memoir “Fireproof Moth”: “Can a leopard change its spots?” referring to the improbability of KMT’s changing its despotic nature.
The recent controversy over the ractopamine residue in imported beef from the US is a very good example. Ma, using his dual roles as Taiwan’s president and KMT chairman, demanded that the party caucus pass an amendment to the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法) to pave the way for the relaxation of the ban on beef with ractopamine residue. KMT legislators were warned of getting a fine if not being “disciplined”.
By making the US government a bully, Taiwanese citizens foolish, and the opposition parties irrational, Ma plays the only good guy in the game. In my opinion, setting its people against another country and evading its responsibility is really the dirtiest trick a government can ever play on its people.
Why does Europe have a different and more stringent standard vis-a-vis US beef than Taiwan? Has Ma put Taiwan in a situation where it can be blackmailed? It appears so.We, as the citizens of Taiwan, must reiterate that we never intend to ban American beef altogether. We are simply enraged by the fact that Ma has been blackmailing us into importing beef with ractopamine. We are against Ma’s government, which is manipulative and dishonest. We are against KMT, a political party that defiles democratic values on a daily basis.